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Totally random: Helping launch NS&I’s Facebook page

This week we helped launch NS&I’s new Facebook page. And taking pride of place is a movie we made to help explain how ERNIE works.

For those who don’t know, ERNIE stands for Electronic Random Number Indicator Equipment, and he’s the machine that generates numbers for the Premium Bonds prize draw every month. A popular myth is that ERNIE is a computer. He’s much more than that. ERNIE isn’t programmed to pick numbers. Instead he generates thermal noise which creates totally random patterns. ERNIE senses these patterns and translates them into random numbers. It’s what they call ‘true randomness’. Which means the numbers ERNIE generates are as random as they can be. You can’t get fairer than that!

Paint on speaker

So our challenge was to help explain how manufactured randomness is completely and utterly fair. We considered various science documentary strand treatments, such as kitchen or garden shed science; a science presenter’s viewpoint piece; or a short film shot on locations such as the Science Museum and ERNIE’s home in Blackpool. However, we came across a technique that involved filming amazing random patterns with paint while it danced around to sound waves emanating from a big speaker. It was such a simple yet effective way of representing true randomness – capturing in slow motion the most stunning beautiful patterns created randomly with nothing more than extremely powerful sound waves.

The scene was set for a shoot in a clean white laboratory.

Weeks were spent obsessing about the viscosity of paint and choosing the best ear-busting drum and bass tracks to get the paint leaping and lolloping just right. Once on set, all that experimentation paid off as we captured footage of the most beautiful gloops, strands, splashes, bursts and drips of paint rising and falling with such grace, elegance and agility. The final sequence involved several thrilling blasts of plastic explosives that must have terrified the chihuahuas at the handbag shoot next door!

Why not go and see the finished result for yourself:  facebook.com/premiumbonds

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